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Bin Ghalita: UAE fans hungry for title

Abu Dhabi: AFC Asian Cup Bronze medallists in 2015 and hosts in 2019, the UAE's hopes of silverware are high. UAE FA President His Excellency Marwan bin Ghalita sheds light on their development efforts.

The Whites came very close to being crowned Asian champions last time they hosted the AFC Asian Cup in 1996, with only a penalty shootout denying them. Now, with a golden generation of players, they are dreaming of continental glory.

The UAE's plans do not stop with the continental showpiece in January, as UAE FA President His Excellency Marwan bin Ghalita explains the challenges that lie ahead for his federation in developing Emirati football.

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After winning bronze at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup and the 2018 Asian Games, what is next for UAE national teams?

Undoubtedly, we have huge ambitions, we want to compete for honours in regional, continental and international tournaments. In Australia 2015, our target was to reach the top four and we succeeded in the face of strong competition all the way from the group stage, only losing the semi-final to the hosts and eventual champions Australia.

Third place was a very good achievement for this generation which had already done so well in the U-21 and U-23 levels. Fans are now hungry for the 2019 title, especially given that we were so close at home in 1996, when we lost to Saudi Arabia on penalties.

The recent Bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games is our second achievement in the competition after winning silver at Guangzhou 2010. Credit goes to the players and staff, as the objective of our participation was to gain experience as many of that team members will be competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers starting March 2019.

These results will reflect positively on our national teams, giving the players a huge confidence boost ahead of upcoming challenges, especially the 2019 AFC Asian Cup on home soil. Winning that title is the dream we will aspire to achieve.

We should also not forget the upcoming AFC U19 Championship in Indonesia, where our objective will be to book one of the qualifying tickets to the FIFA U20 World Cup.

Results aside, what positives does the UAE FA hope to achieve by hosting the 2019 AFC Asian Cup?

Hosting a tournament as big as the AFC Asian Cup is a new challenge for Emirati sports, the UAE always aims to deliver successful events to add to its world class status as a host of sporting events. The UAE has top level infrastructure, stadiums, public transport as well as many hotels and shopping malls. All logistic preparations that can make the AFC Asian Cup a success with 24 teams participating for the first time.

AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 - The Cast

Having expat communities from over 200 nationalities living peacefully in the UAE will ensure excellent attendance in the 51 matches taking place across four cities; Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai and Sharjah.

I have to highlight the work of the Local Organising Committee and the AFC to ensure all preparations, programmes and events are in place.


What are the biggest challenges facing UAE football and what plans does the UAE FA have in place to tackle them? 

There are many challenges that we are working on tackling to pave the way towards achieving our objectives. The main ones are developing the administration at the UAE FA and boosting the expertise of our staff in various areas, be they technical, medical, administrative, media, marketing or legal. We also aim to make our domestic competitions to become more exciting, competitive and followed by fans and media.

We also aim to expand the number of registered players across the UAE, to help scouting. We want to encourage Emirati players to move abroad and experience playing in different leagues, which will develop the levels of our players in many aspects including the experience of a truly professional environment with different cultures and playing styles.

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